This blog series will shine a spotlight on some of the special Kaldi’s Coffee team members behind our coffee and food. Without our team of coffee-loving, people-loving people, Kaldi’s Coffee wouldn’t be Kaldi’s Coffee!
This month, we sat down with Jordan Higgs, GM of our Atlanta cafes. In the before-and-soon-to-be-again-times, he manages three Kaldi’s on Emory’s campus. They’re about to reopen, so we were lucky to catch him while he still had time to talk!
What brought you to Kaldi’s?
I’d been with the Five Guys chain since high school, and when I moved back to Atlanta from college, I stayed with Five Guys as a General Manager, but I was looking online and saw Kaldi’s was hiring.
It felt like a big risk at the time, leaving what I’d always known, but the interview process was so personal and hands-on that it put me at ease. It was an intense hiring process, and being hired as a manager meant it was an intense training process too. This was right when the Depot and the Emory School of Medicine cafe were opening, so there was a lot of focus on getting the right people in the right places in Atlanta.
What were those early days like?
Coffee was new to me, but the food scale was right in the wheelhouse of my restaurant experience. It felt good to be able to apply that experience with high volume kitchens to the new operations, while immersing myself in studying coffee. With the new cafes opening, the timing was fast, but because of construction delays, I was able to come up to Saint Louis, to train at DeMun, and get a sense of the company culture and the cafe atmosphere we were going for in Atlanta.
I trained with [former employee] Jeremy, and then he came down for the first two months to help with the openings here, which was great. We had a full support team here for over a month, and were instantly busier than any other cafe at the time.
How has the last year been for you?
It’s been a blessing and a curse. I guess it's weird. I felt fortunate, because I’m so close with my team members, and reducing operations to just one cafe was hard, but being able to give my remaining team members full time hours, I felt fortunate. The first few weeks of lockdown were very hard. I was able to direct my employees to resources and get answers for them. I was on the phone daily with our Vice President of Retail Operations, keeping abreast of the daily updates. We did a lot of research and directed our people to assistance hotlines. Happily, everyone who has wanted to come back this year has been able to, which is great.
What’s your favorite part of cafe life?
I love my team. I’ve got 5 team members that have been with the company as long as I have, and we only have one new hire since Covid. In the next two months we plan on hiring 60-75 new people. I’m excited to get all the cafes up and running and to build those teams up again.
What advice would you give someone starting in coffee?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; we’re all people. Be honest and open, know that we appreciate transparency. I’d rather teach somebody a task 10 times because they asked me how to do it 10 different times than to correct a mistake because someone was afraid to ask how to do it.
How have you de-stressed in the past year?
I was an athlete growing up, on a track scholarship in college, playing football, and part of the national youth soccer setup, and I still de-stress with exercise, but my interests have changed as I’ve gotten older. Last year, I was in the garden a lot, doing yard work, and I spent a lot of time redoing one of my bathrooms. I’ve redone my aunt’s deck and bathroom in the past year. Just a lot of time at Lowe’s and doing home improvement projects. As a kid, my grandfather influenced; he was a contractor. In elementary school, we refinished his basement together. His skill and those memories have kept me inspired to keep building.
Have your experiences as an elite college athlete translated into cafe management?
Absolutely. The focus on preparation and training in the pursuit of perfecting an act apply every day to life in a cafe. The resilience I learned getting injured on the track has helped me push through setbacks. And being a team captain obviously taught me leadership, but just as importantly, it taught me the importance of having fun when building a happy team.
Quick Q&A with Jordan:
Favorite Coffee: Natural Washed Ethiopia
Favorite Animal: My Dogs
Favorite Season: Summer
Favorite Food: Ribs/Wings
Favorite Nightlife Spot: My couch with a foot massager.
Describe your cafes: The Depot is a cool place to study, the ESC [Emory Student Center] feels like a modern upgrade to the Central Perk in Friends, and the SOM [School of Medicine] is a nice quiet place to enjoy coffee.
Next Hobby: Anything power tool related
Dream Job: HGTV Host
If you could only drink 1 drink for the rest of your life: Whiskey Sour and room temperature water
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our interview with Jordan. Stay tuned to our blog for more interviews with the team members behind your favorite beverages and cafe experiences, and of course, more exciting coffee knowledge and brewing tips!